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Earlier today, a Labour spokesman indicated that talks on the proposed Brexit debate were on the verge of breaking down because of the Prime Minister’s u-turn over the format.
Despite initially proposing a straightforward one on one debate, Downing Street now only appear willing to accept a format that allows a panel of experts who are supportive of the Prime Minister’s deal.
Following Downing Street’s initial proposal of a head to head debate, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn immediately accepted the offer, but it now appears the government have moved the goalposts.
Responding to the government’s latest u-turn, a Labour spokesman stated:
“Theresa May is running away from the scrutiny of a head to head debate with Jeremy Corbyn, as she did in the 2017 General Election campaign.
When number Ten told the media she wanted a head to head debate on her botched Brexit deal, Jeremy Corbyn immediately agreed.
Jeremy Corbyn then swiftly accepted ITV’s proposal for a straightforward head to head debate with Theresa May. But the Prime Minister has rejected it.
Since then, the Prime Minister’s team and their preferred broadcaster, the BBC, have put together a confused format which would limit head to head debating time, with a built-in advantage for the government.
The BBC’s latest proposal is a mish-mash, with a lop-sided panel of other politicians and public figures – not a straightforward head to head debate.
The public has a right to a genuine head to head debate on the Prime Minister’s worst of all worlds deal.
Either Theresa May should accept ITV’s straightforward proposal, or, if she prefers the BBC, to ask the corporation for a genuine head to head debate. Jeremy Corbyn is ready to take part in either.
If the Prime Minister turns down the opportunity of a genuine head to head debate, it will be clear she is once again dodging the TV debate with the leader of the opposition on the future of our country.”
This scorching statement from a Labour spokesman heavily suggests Sunday's May-Corbyn TV Europe debate isn't going ahead pic.twitter.com/Zo7h7GYpsI
— Kevin Maguire (@Kevin_Maguire) December 4, 2018
Unsurprisingly, the Prime Minister’s latest ridiculous u-turn came in for criticism from both sides of the political spectrum:
Theresa May is willing to debate with Corbyn……as long as she can bring 10 friends along with her. Probably the only 10 people in the world who support her deal, all crammed into a TV studio. https://t.co/pfGLDADAvU
— Solomon Hughes (@SolHughesWriter) December 4, 2018
The worst thing about the BBC proposal is that only they could have made it: a politicised and biased editorial decision alongside all the others they've made from the get go. All other broadcasters though "popcorn" BBC thought "how do we curry favour?" https://t.co/8ExNH19nXr
— Paul Mason (@paulmasonnews) December 4, 2018
Absurd that BBC is trying to turn May/Corbyn Brexit debate into a version of BBC Questiontime. It’s head-to-head or worthless. @jeremycorbyn is right on this.
— Adam Boulton (@adamboultonSKY) December 3, 2018
The BBC have now issued a statement confirming that they have cancelled negotiations over the debate:
BBC statement on Brexit TV debate pic.twitter.com/An7ku4isse
— BBC News Press Team (@BBCNewsPR) December 4, 2018
The BBC’s statement came after Labour had formally rejected the government’s proposals over the format – all of which would have included a panel supportive of the Prime Minister.
It will now be up to the Prime Minister to decide whether she will accept ITV’s proposal of a straight-forward head to head debate – something which seems extremely unlikely.
Theresa May has a history of dodging televised debates, having also chickened out of debating the major party leaders in a televised debate during the 2017 general election campaign.
Instead of attending herself, the Prime Minister chose to send her recently bereaved Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, to debate the government line on her behalf.
May’s 2017 debate-dodging decision was also widely lambasted by all sides of the political spectrum, with many also arguing that it may have played a part in the Prime Minister losing her majority in Parliament.
If talks on the latest Brexit debate do indeed break down, Downing Street will surely attempt to place the blame at the door of the Labour leader. However, it is clear that since her initial offer of a straightforward head to head debate was reneged on, the Prime Minister’s team would clearly be at fault.